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Ben Cherington: Red Sox, Jon Lester to ‘hit the pause button’ in extension talks

03.29.14 at 11:12 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox and left-hander Jon Lester have agreed to table discussions about a potential contract extension beyond the 2014 season. Lester, who will start Opening Day for the fourth straight year on Monday, at least will begin the 2014 campaign uncertain of whether it will be his last in Boston after the two sides could not find common ground.

“I think that we’re going to hit the pause button,” GM Ben Cherington said of talks with the 30-year-old pitcher. “We’ve had a lot of good dialogue, shared information. Jon and [agent Seth Levinson] have made good arguments for their position. We understand their position. We feel like we have good arguments for our position and our desire remains to keep him here past 2014. We weren’t able to find something that worked for everyone during this spring training. So, just in the interests of allowing him to get ready for Monday, let the team get ready for Monday, we’ll kind of hit the pause button and hope that we can pick up the conversation again at some point.”

Cherington suggested that there remains a shared interest in seeing whether an agreement can be reached to keep Lester with the only organization for whom he’s pitched professionally. Lester was taken by the Red Sox in the second round of the 2002 draft, and both he and the club have repeatedly stated a desire to continue that relationship beyond Lester’s eligibility for free agency following this season, the $13 million option year on what was initially a five-year, $30 million deal that he signed after the 2008 campaign.

The Red Sox GM did not rule out the possibility of revisiting talks during the season, even as he allowed that the two sides may wait until after the year to resume conversations.

“We’re going to focus on the season right now and he’s going to focus on the season. We’ll get into it and see where we go from there,” said Cherington. “I don’t want to rule anything out because I think, I don’t think it’s necessary to rule anything out. We, it could be that we wait until the end of the season and pick it up then. I think there’s a shared desire to continue to talk at some point. We just don’t know when that’s going to be.”

Lester went 15-8 with a 3.75 ERA last year before turning in a dominant postseason performance (4-1 with a 1.56 ERA in five October starts) in anchoring the Sox rotation in its World Series run. Though the pitcher had suggested he wasn’t looking to maximize his earnings in extension talks with the Sox, he also made clear that he had limits in terms of the lengths to which he’d go in order to re-up with the team. And through the spring, the two sides could not close the gap to find common ground, though the potential to revisit that position remains.

“Jon has put himself in a good position,” said Cherington. “He’s a very good starting pitcher who’s been consistent and durable and he’s now a season away from free agency. He’s put himself in a good position. We understand that, respect that. Again, our desire remains to keep him here. We’ll continue to have an open mind on ways to do that but we just couldn’t get to anything during this spring training.”

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